Contact: Jon Peacock
(608)-284-0580 x 307

Medicaid provides health care for nearly 1.2 million Wisconsinites in all parts of the state, but a new study shows that it is especially important for children in northern counties.

The new analysis by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families found that in 2014-15 Medicaid provided health coverage for at least 40 percent of children in 18 northern Wisconsin counties. Only one other county, Milwaukee, was above the 40 percent level.

The report, “Medicaid in Small Town America: A Lifeline for Children, Families and Communities,” finds that 34 percent of children in rural areas and small towns in Wisconsin receive health coverage through Medicaid and BadgerCare, compared to 31 percent of kids in metropolitan areas.

Medicaid participation is also higher in Wisconsin’s rural areas for adults, but the difference is narrower than it is for children. The new study reports that 14 percent of adults in Wisconsin’s small towns and rural areas are covered by Medicaid, compared to 13 percent in metro areas.

Because of changes made by the Affordable Care Act, the number of uninsured Wisconsinites has dropped sharply across the state in recent years, but especially in Wisconsin’s small towns and rural areas. Between 2008/09 and 2014/15, the percentage of uninsured adults dropped from 15 to 9 percent in Wisconsin’s non-metro areas, and the rate of uninsured children in rural areas dropped from 6 percent to 5 percent.

“When children and families have health insurance, whole communities are stronger,” said Sashi Gregory, the Health Policy Analyst at the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. “Reliable access to health coverage means fewer visits to the ER, less uncompensated care, and a larger and healthier workforce. We must not turn our backs on the substantial progress we’ve made in strengthening Wisconsin by getting our children and families the health coverage they need to succeed.”

Health care advocates are worried that Medicaid cuts proposed by Congress and President Trump would be harmful for children and adults in rural areas. According to the latest estimates by the Congressional Budget Office, the House bill to repeal and partially replace the Affordable Care Act would cut $834 billion from federal Medicaid funding over the next 10 years.

Joan Alker, Executive Director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families expressed concerns about the implications for rural families of the proposed Medicaid cuts. “Medicaid provides critical access to life-saving treatment and protection from rising health care costs to many children and families living in small towns and rural America,” Alker said. “Cuts to Medicaid and other health care programs would take those protections away from many and risk financial ruin, denial of health care, or both.”

The report primarily relies on data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). The full report along with interactive maps showing a county-by-county breakdown on health care coverage data are available at:

A table showing the counties with the highest Medicaid participation rates for kids is attached.


The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families is a multi-issue policy research and advocacy organization promoting statewide polices that ensure a safe and healthy future for every child in Wisconsin. For more information, visit

Top 20 Counties in Wisconsin with the Highest Percentage of Children with Medicaid (ACS 2014/15)


County # of Children with Medicaid (2014/15) % of Children with Medicaid (2014/15)
Menominee County 710 47%
Vilas County 1,720 46%
Forest County 910 45%
Langlade County 1,840 45%
Sawyer County 1,570 45%
Burnett County 1,310 44%
Ashland County 1,680 43%
Milwaukee County 107,750 43%
Rusk County 1,380 43%
Washburn County 1,370 43%
Bayfield County 1,220 42%
Iron County 410 42%
Marinette County 3,540 42%
Oneida County 2,750 42%
Price County 1,070 42%
Douglas County 3,970 41%
Florence County 330 41%
Lincoln County 2,430 41%
Taylor County 2,050 40%
Door County 1,890 39%


Print Friendly, PDF & Email